James Emejo in Abuja
The acting Managing Director, Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA), Mr. Bitrus Dawuk, has said periodic interference of other government agencies in free zone operations, overtly stringent or impromptu government fiscal and monetary policies as well as an outdated legal framework which had existed for over twenty years, all constitute barriers negating efforts in attracting and retaining investors in free trade zones across the country.
But he said with President Muhammadu Buhari’s commitment toward ensuring effective and efficient management of the country’s free zone scheme, the sector would be stabilised to become the country’s economic powerhouse.
The acting MD said the government was working toward using the sector to trigger the economy after months of docility caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dawuk, who spoke at a web conference with the theme: “Attracting Increased FDI to Nigeria’s Free Zones in the Post COVID-19 Era,”
said the authority had enjoyed some considerable increase in budgetary allocation since Buhari discovered the need to support the sector to perform optimally, adding that the president’s exposure to the Chinese free zone scheme had positively robbed off on NEPZA and the country’s free zone as a whole.
However, in his presentation titled “Seeking New Frontier for Repositioning NEPZA for Maximum Investor Attraction and Retention in the Post COVID-19 Era”, Dawuk said the pandemic presented both challenges and opportunities for free zones development globally.
He noted that the pandemic had also challenged the manufacturing value addition of free zone enterprise and disrupted the global supply chain.
In a statement by Head, Corporate Communications, NEPZA,
Mr. Martins Odeh, the acting chief executive added that the authority was prepared to cash in on the prevailing business environment by developing robust actionable plans to reposition the country’s free zone for maximum investor attraction and retention in post COVID-19 and Brexit era.
He added: “NEPZA has identified two major opportunities presented by COVID-19: the first is inward production, involving a change in sectorial focus in favour of agro-allied and healthcare, while the second is in the global and regional value and supply chain, involving manufacturing and supply of capital goods to other African countries”.
He said the agency was enthused by Buhari’s special interest to ensure the scheme surmounted all prevailing challenges so as to leverage on the opportunities provided by the scheme to accelerate attraction of Direct Foreign Investment (DFI) into the country.
He added that he was, particularly not surprised by the current administration’s support for NEPZA and the entire operations of free zone in the country, adding that the federal government’s former subtle reservation toward the sector changed when the president made a state visit to China to have an on the spot assessment of Chinese free zone model.